Jesus And The Charisma Myth: Chapter 20


Today’s post is from my new book Love Like Jesus: How Jesus Loved People (and how you can love like Jesus). Last Saturday we posted Chapter 19: Love Like Jesus–Pray Like Jesus. Love Like Jesus is due to be published in January of 2020.

Jesus And The Charisma Myth

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

1 Corinthians 13:1

“Be Winsome”

“Be winsome,” the pastor at the pulpit said to me, and to the rest of the congregation seated before him that Sunday morning. In context, he was instructing us to be winsome even as Jesus is winsome, so we can influence people for Christ more effectively. A year or so later I heard another pastor give the same exact instruction: “Be winsome.”

I get it. Jesus was the most winsome person to ever walk the planet. He was charismatic beyond anyone in history. People were so attracted to him, at times the press of the crowd prevented him from eating. He was so charismatic they tried to make him king by force. He was so charismatic “Jesus could no longer openly enter a town . . . [because] people were coming to him from every quarter.” Great multitudes followed him. As you read through the gospels, you see the word multitude used again and again. Jesus was winsome. Jesus had charisma more than any other. (Mark 3:20, John 6:15, Mark 1:45)

So, the pastor said:

“Be winsome,” so we could be more like Jesus.

But for a socially clueless person like me — that advice wasn’t particularly helpful.

Jesus And The Charisma Myth

That experience, hearing the advice to “be winsome” and not knowing how to follow that advice, was a large part of what inspired me to embark on this quest to learn how Jesus loved people. It was a large part of what inspired me to research what you’re reading in this book. And that quest to learn how Jesus loved people (and how to be winsome so I could love more like Jesus) took me to an excellent book by Olivia Fox Cabane titled The Charisma Myth.

The premise of The Charisma Myth is the common notion that you’re either born with charisma — or you’re born without it is a myth. In Cabane’s book I learned how “in controlled laboratory experiments, researchers were able to raise and lower people’s levels of charisma as if they were turning a dial.”

Cabane describes how people perceive three qualities in charismatic people: power, warmth, and presence. As I read this, I couldn’t help but think of Jesus and how he displays all three. Anyone who reads the gospels would say, Jesus’ power, his warmth, and his presence are undeniable.

I also learned that through her research, Cabane has identified four different types of charisma.

  • Kindness charisma: Nelson Mandela was an example of a person with kindness charisma. Kindness charisma is warmth towards others. When you have this type of charisma, the people around you feel your goodwill toward them and your compassion for them.
  • Focus charisma: Mahatma Gandhi displayed this kind of charisma. His attention was very much in the moment. The person with focus charisma listens attentively and with an attitude of warmth.
  • Authority charisma: Authority charisma is why people listen to you and respond. When people recognize your authority, they want to listen. In a crisis, people respond to those who are bold, confident, and decisive. Colin Powell would be an example of someone with authority charisma.
  • Vision charisma: Martin Luther King Junior, Joan of Arc, and Elon Musk are people who had (or have) vision charisma. People with vision charisma have a powerful vision and they communicate that vision with great conviction.

Again I thought of Jesus and how we see all four types of charisma in him. People who were used to being disparaged and dismissed by others were treated with kindness by Jesus. And Jesus displayed focus in his conversation with the woman at the well and in his interactions with his disciples. And he displayed authority when he gave commands and assignments to his followers. And when we read about the way he spoke, we see that he was the greatest communicator of vision there ever was.

How To Love Like Jesus

Right about now you might be thinking, “OK, so I get it. A lot of what you read in The Charisma Myth lined up with Jesus’ charisma and winsomeness. So what?”

What I have found is that charisma helps me to communicate the love of Jesus. Because Jesus was obviously charismatic, the more charismatic I can be, the more I can effectively love like Jesus loved. The Charisma Myth helped me to be more charismatic, or to “be winsome” as my pastor instructed. (At least more so than I used to be.)

One discovery I found helpful was that it turns out you don’t have to be an outgoing person to be charismatic. I’m an introvert, and I learned that introverts can actually have an advantage when it comes to certain kinds of charisma, like focus. When another person is speaking, the extrovert is often thinking about what he’s going to say next, rather than being present in the moment and listening to what is being said. The introvert is better at listening and genuinely trying to understand what the other person is communicating.

I also found useful, Cabane’s insights concerning perceptions and what they can do to encourage or shut down the communication of the love of Jesus. To elaborate a bit more on focus charisma: If someone perceives disengagement on the part of another during an interpersonal interaction, they’ll resent that person. So you might have the best intentions ever, but if the person you’re interacting with perceives disengagement, it’s unlikely that person will recognize your attempts to love like Jesus. It’s the same with authenticity. If a person perceives you to be inauthentic, they’ll be closed off from receiving love from you. “In fact, Stanford researchers conducted experiments showing that when people try to hide their feelings, they provoke a threat-response arousal in others.” (Cabane)

I found this helpful because I used to think I could fake it. It turns out people recognize when you’re pretending to pay attention or when you’re pretending to be authentic. (This is just one of the of the reasons the chapter on the Holy Spirit is so important. Your love is never more authentic than when you’re filled with the Holy Spirit.)

I learned that what we’re instructed to do in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 increases charisma. That’s right, gratitude increases charisma. So we can influence people for Jesus more effectively when we “Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

And I learned about charisma killers. Resentment, neediness, desperation, and offering unsolicited advice all kill charisma. You could say they’re like noise that disrupts the music of winsomeness. As I read the Charisma Myth I realized it lines up with 1 Corinthians 13. If I “have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Not giving unsolicited advice was a hard one for me. I love to give advice! But one time I heard Bob Goff say something that really helped my with this problem. During an interview, Bob said he’s never given anyone advice ever — he just shares observations. And I’ve noticed his observations are always about himself or someone other than the person he’s talking to.

In The Charisma Myth, Cabane also offers many practical and immediately applicable tools to increase your charisma. Here are three quick ones that will have an immediate effect.

  1. Lower the intonation of your voice at the end of sentences.
  2. Nod rarely, or not at all.
  3. Pause a full two seconds before speaking. (Interrupting is a charisma killer — and letting others interrupt you is not.)

“Be Winsome”

I know some might complain that I’m inserting science into a book about the Jesus of the bible. But if we’re to love like Jesus as he commanded us to in John 15:12, and if Jesus loved with great charisma, then it only makes sense for you and me to become as charismatic as we can. Not for the purpose of attracting people to ourselves, but for the purpose of attracting people to Jesus.

And if we’re offered tools that can raise our level of charisma as if we were turning a dial, then we should use those tools, for God’s glory.

So to love like Jesus, “be winsome” like Jesus.

Be more charismatic like Jesus.

Turn up the dial.



  1. Olivia Fox Cabane, The Charisma Myth: How Anyone Can Master the Art and Science of Personal Magnetism, Portfolio, 2012
  2. Interview with Bob And Maria Goff, Carey Nieuwhof Leadership Podcast CNLP 138, URL:

3 Comments on “Jesus And The Charisma Myth: Chapter 20

  1. Pingback: Love Like Jesus–No Family Or Rich Friends: Chapter 21 | God Running

  2. I must have really needed a refresher on charisma because two charisma related posts showed up in my feed. I’m thinking that specifically the focus and not giving advice part was what I needed. It’s interesting to compare this post on charisma with the secular one that showed up on LinkedIn.

    The charisma focused linked below seems to be all about authority charisma and some on focus charisma. Interesting how two people can read the same book and draw different conclusions.

    • Thanks for sharing the link Adam. I just read the article and I have to admit that what I received from “The Charisma Myth” book was a lot different than what the author from the link shared in her article. For me it lines up with how Jesus interacted with people in the gospels. And I think it lines up with 1 Corinthians 13 too. It sounds like you’ve read the book Adam. I would love to hear your own conclusions.

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